Five myths about a state-run cannabis industry. Because the debate between having a state-run vs. privately-owned cannabis industry is riddled with fallacies. State-owned vs. privately-owned cannabis companies. What’s the difference? Is one more advantageous than the other? Are state-run (or government-owned) farms and stores more concerned for the public than those pesky “for-profit” dispensaries? Let’s dispel five myths about a state-run vs. privately-owned cannabis industry. It’s not as if this is some abstract philosophical issue. Following New Hampshire’s Senate’s rejection […]
The New Hampshire state Senate on Thursday voted down a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, with senators on both sides of the aisle citing concerns for children’s safety. The measure, which was passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives last month, was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 14-10 on May 11.
Republican Senator Jeb Bradley, the president of the New Hampshire Senate, said that as the state combats a drug addiction and overdose crisis, it is not the right time to legalize marijuana.
“Recreationalizing marijuana at this critical juncture would send a confusing message, potentially exacerbating the already perilous drug landscape and placing more lives at risk,” Bradley said in a written statement cited by the Coast Reporter.
Had the measure been passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Sununu, House Bill 639 would have legalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. If adopted, New Hampshire would have been the 22nd state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, making it the last in New England to end the prohibition of cannabis.
The legislation would have renamed the New Hampshire Liquor Commission as the Liquor and Cannabis Commission, which would have been tasked with regulating the commercial cultivation, processing, safety testing and distribution of cannabis. The measure also included a 12.5% tax on cannabis cultivation, with revenue raised by the tax dedicated largely to the state’s pension liability and New Hampshire’s education trust fund. Revenue raised from cannabis taxes would also have been used to fund substance misuse programs and law enforcement training.
Under current New Hampshire law, simple possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of cannabis is a civil offense subject to a fine of up to $100. Possession of cannabis in amounts greater than ¾ of an ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $350.
Opponents Cite Youth Safetyin New Hampshire
Senator Lou D’Allesando, the lone Democrat in the Senate to vote against the legalization bill, noted that he spent 50 years of his life as a teacher and coach. Also a grandparent, he said that he was opposing the bill to protect kids.
“It would say to our children that marijuana is safe and could be used without harmful consequences,” D’Allesandro said, “and nothing could be further from the truth.”
With the exception of D’Allesandro, all Democratic senators voted in favor of the bill, while all but one Republican voted against the measure. Democratic Senator Becky Whitley refuted claims that legalizing marijuana for adults would cause the rate of use by young people to rise dramatically.
“Youth already use marijuana right now in our state; it’s undeniable,” said Whitley. “What I want to see is a decrease in that use, and if we legalize, that’s what I’m hearing will happen.”
House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm said that legalizing marijuana has significant public support in New Hampshire, adding that regulating cannabis could have a positive impact on public health.
“Every day that New Hampshire remains an island of prohibition, more voluntary tax revenue from our residents flows to surrounding states to fund programs and services benefitting their residents,” Wilhelm said in a press release.
Frank Knaack, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, criticized senators who failed to vote in favor of the legalization bill.
“These lawmakers are willing to ignore the will of their own constituents and are okay with continuing to needlessly ensnare over a thousand people — disproportionately Black people — in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system every year,” said Knaack.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed the legislation on April 7, but approval became unlikely in the Senate after a key committee recommended against passing the measure. Previous attempts to legalize recreational marijuana in New Hampshire have also seen success in the House of Representatives but failed to gain approval in the state Senate. Supporters of HB 639 had hoped that legalization efforts would finally see success in 2023.
“New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalize cannabis, while our neighbors benefit from increased revenue and their cannabis users benefit from safer testing and regulation of the product,” Democratic Representative Matt Wilhelm, a co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives, said in a statement after the bill succeeded in the lower chamber of the legislature last month. “Legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”
The New Hampshire House of Representatives on April 7 approved bipartisan legislation to legalize cannabis for adults. The measure, House Bill 639 from Republican Representative Jason Osborne and Representative Matt Wilhelm, his Democratic colleague, was approved by the House by a vote of 272-109 late on Thursday. The legislation, which received initial approval from members of the House in February, now heads to the New Hampshire Senate for consideration.
“I am pleased to see New Hampshire take a step toward relieving gangsters and thugs from control of this market, keeping dangerous untested products away from consumers, and protecting children from harmful age-inappropriate products,” Osborne said in a statement after Thursday’s vote.
If passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, House Bill 639 would legalize the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. If adopted, New Hampshire would join the 21 states that have already legalized recreational marijuana, making the state the last in New England to end the prohibition on cannabis.
The legislation directs the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, which would be renamed the Liquor and Cannabis Commission, to regulate the commercial cultivation, processing, safety testing and distribution of cannabis. The measure also sets a 15% tax on cannabis cultivation, with revenue raised by the tax dedicated largely to the state’s pension liability and New Hampshire’s education trust fund. Revenue raised from cannabis taxes would also be used to fund substance misuse programs and law enforcement training.
Under current New Hampshire law, simple possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of cannabis is a civil offense subject to a fine of up to $100. Possession of cannabis in amounts greater than ¾ of an ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $350.
“With the decisive passage of HB 639, the New Hampshire House has sent a strong message that this is the year to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Granite State,” Wilhelm said in a statement. “Every year we fail to legalize marijuana, the state wastes valuable resources and ruins the lives of many young and poor Granite Staters by enforcing failed prohibition.”
Previous Attempts To Legalize Cannabis in New Hampshire Failed
Previous attempts to legalize recreational marijuana in New Hampshire have also seen success in the House of Representatives but failed to gain approval in the state Senate. Supporters of HB 639 hope this year will be different.
“New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalize cannabis, while our neighbors benefit from increased revenue and their cannabis users benefit from safer testing and regulation of the product,” he continued. “Legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”
While HB 639 was approved by the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a wide margin, the state Senate is less likely to vote in favor of the bill. The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate, however, including from Republican Senator Keith Murphy and Democrats Senator Becky Whitley and Senator Donovan Fenton, according to a report from The Center Square.
“Prohibition has proven over and over to be a failed public policy,” Murphy said in a statement. “It is especially ineffective when all of our surrounding states have already legalized marijuana possession and use. Investigating and prosecuting cannabis possession is a terrible waste of tax dollars. For these reasons, I am encouraging my Senate colleagues to support the bill.”
If the proposal is approved by the upper chamber of the state legislature, Sununu has indicated he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. If he does, the legislature would then have an opportunity to override the veto.
House Bill 431 was introduced on Jan. 5, 2023, and has proceeded through numerous sessions and hearings before passing in the House on March 22. If passed, it would allow patients as well as caregivers to cultivate up to three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings at home. Additionally, HB-341 would also increase the number of plants that medical cannabis dispensaries can grow, with 80 mature plants, 160 immature plants, and an endless number of seedlings.
The bill requires that patients report their cultivation to the Department of Health and Human Services, and as a qualifying patient or caregiver, would be protected from arrest by state or local law enforcement or penalty under state or municipal law.
During the hearings that have been conducted so far, two concerns have been discussed, according to Rep. Erica Layon of Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs. “This bill as amended provides a framework for therapeutic cannabis patients or their caregivers to grow cannabis with restrictions. This bill addresses two major problems for this community—access and price,” said Layon during a meeting on March 17. “The closest Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) may be far away and the cost of this product is high. Most therapeutic cannabis patients will continue to purchase their product from ATCs and those who choose to grow their own will be able to purchase seedlings from the ATC or grow from seeds according to their preference. This bill has broad support from stakeholders including patient representatives, ATCs and the department.”
Rep. Wendy Thomas, one of the sponsors of HB-341, tweeted about the bill’s progress so far. “Passed on a voice vote of the Consent Calendar—HB-431—Therapeutic home-grow now moves to the Senate One step closer. Thanks to all of the many advocates who have worked to make this happen. Let us not take our foot off the gas until we get this signed,” she posted on March 22. The bill now heads to the senate for further consideration.
As of January, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s office predicts that cannabis legalization will not reach his desk. “It’s failed in the Senate repeatedly, in both Republican-held years and Democrat-held years,” Sununu’s office said in a statement to New Hampshire Public Radio. “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, it is not anticipated that the legislature will see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”
House Bill 360 also recently passed in the House on March 21, which would legalize adult-use cannabis by removing cannabis from the state’s list of banned substances and removing any criminal penalties for cannabis offenses. While cannabis would be legal to possess, cultivate, and purchase, it does not implement any tax or regulation program. It has also moved to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 639 has also been making its way through the House. If passed, it would legalize possession, cannabis sales, and gifting of up to four ounces, create a Liquor and Cannabis Commission to manage industry regulations statewide, implement taxes for cultivators, and much more. The latest hearing was held on March 20.
Rep. Anita Burroughs spoke during a floor debate for HB-639 on Feb. 22, and explained that it is “good legislation that is the result of the goodwill and diligent work of both political parties.” “We can now join other New England states that offer safe, regulated and a profitable cannabis industry to their citizens,” she continued.
Other representatives expressed their excitement when HB-639 passed on Feb. 22. “I cast my vote on cannabis legalization from seat 4-20!” Tweeted Rep. Amanda Bouldin. “We did the damn thing #blazeit” Rep. Jessica Grill shared.
Did New Hampshire vote to legalize cannabis without regulations or restrictions? The New Hampshire House of Representatives has approved two bills to legalize cannabis. About a month ago, the House passed your typical legalization bill, including taxes and regulations. While that’s tied up in the Senate, the House has introduced a “simple” legalization bill. House Bill 639 is a “simple” legalization bill that would remove cannabis from the state’s list of controlled substances. It also removes cannabis-related offences from the […]
Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to move forward with legislation that would legalize recreational cannabis in the Granite State.
Members of the House voted 234-127 to advance the bill to a committee for further consideration.
The measure “would make possession and use of cannabis legal for adults 21 and older,” while empowering “existing alternative treatment centers to expand their role in marijuana production to supply local retailers, with the Liquor Commission potentially taking on a greater oversight role,” according to local news station WMUR.
Wednesday’s approval in the House of Representatives was described as the “first big test” by local news station NECN, but the legislation still looks like a long-shot to become law.
Republicans control the New Hampshire legislature, known as the state General Court, but the two chambers have long been split on the issue of marijuana legalization.
While the House has pushed for an end to prohibition, the state Senate has not been on board.
After members of the state House approved a legalization bill last year, the measure was promptly voted down in the state Senate by a vote of 15-9.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, meanwhile, has been consistently averse to the policy.
“I’ve always said now’s not the time. Every state does it very different. I’ve always wanted to see what works and what doesn’t,” Sununu said last year during a debate in the state’s gubernatorial race. “There may be a way to do it but given that we are facing an opioid crisis, given that we still don’t know what works with other states, it could be inevitable, I get it, but you got to be patient about how you do it and the steps that are best for New Hampshire.”
“It’s failed in the Senate repeatedly, in both Republican-held years and Democrat-held years,” the governor’s office said. “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, it is not anticipated that the legislature will see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”
Advocates of the proposal in the state House of Representatives contend that New Hampshire is losing out on potential tax revenue to other states throughout the northeast that have already legalized recreational cannabis.
“I want to make sure that New Hampshire citizens don’t have to go out of state to practice ‘Live Free or Die,’” said Republican state House Rep. John Hunt, as quoted by local news station NECN.
According to the station, “other supporters said the bill would ensure the safety of cannabis and would allow for significant local input in the permitting and licensing of facilities,” while opponents to the measure “focused on the danger of teen use and noted strong opposition from the law enforcement community.”
“Don’t be fooled by the addiction-for-profit industry that claims tax revenue will solve all our budget problems,” said GOP state House Rep. Lilli Walsh, as quoted by NECN. “It will change our state in unimaginable ways, none of which promote the common good.”
The latest legalization bill approved by the House on Wednesday “would put the state’s Liquor Commission in charge of regulating marijuana, with a 15% tax levied at the cultivation level,” while most “of the tax revenue would go toward reducing the state’s pension liability and the state’s education trust fund, with some set aside substance abuse prevention programs and police training.”
Polls have shown that legalization enjoys broad support among New Hampshire voters.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire are gearing up for another effort to legalize marijuana, but the state’s governor doesn’t think they will succeed.
The latest cannabis bill being floated in the New Hampshire legislature has support from members of both parties, and the proposal was considered at a hearing in the state House Commerce Committee on Wednesday, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.
Republicans have control over the New Hampshire state government, holding majorities in both the state Senate and state House of Representatives.
The state’s governor, Chris Sununu, is also a Republican.
As was the case last year, when another marijuana legalization was considered, the proposal has exposed a divide within the New Hampshire GOP.
While the House of Representatives has “repeatedly backed plans to legalize cannabis,” according to New Hampshire Public Radio, the Republican-led state Senate has not been on board.
Sununu, meanwhile, represents another obstacle to the bill.
“I’ve always said now’s not the time. Every state does it very different. I’ve always wanted to see what works and what doesn’t,” Sununu said in a gubernatorial debate last year. “There may be a way to do it but given that we are facing an opioid crisis, given that we still don’t know what works with other states, it could be inevitable, I get it, but you got to be patient about how you do it and the steps that are best for New Hampshire.”
On Wednesday, Sununu’s office was dismissive of the latest legalization’s bill’s prospects.
“It’s failed in the Senate repeatedly, in both Republican-held years and Democrat-held years,” the governor’s office said, as quoted by New Hampshire Public Radio. “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, it is not anticipated that the legislature will see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”
Sununu has backed other cannabis-related reforms, however.
According to the Associated Press, “Sununu signed legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, expanding access to medical marijuana and creating a system for annulling old convictions for marijuana possession,” but “a bill to legalize recreational use has never reached his desk.”
“Governor Sununu has done more on the issues surrounding marijuana reform than any other governor in New Hampshire history,” Sununu spokesperson Ben Vihstadt told the AP.
The legislation was announced last month by two of the senior members of the state House of Representatives: House Majority Leader Jason Osborne and House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm.
“The House has long stood united in finding a pathway to getting this done for Granite Staters,” Osborne said at the time. “With any luck, the Senate will come around to supporting the will of the vast majority of New Hampshire citizens.”
On Wednesday, Osborne stumped for the bill before the House Commerce Committee.
“What you are looking at is a result of a number of months of work by an entire coalition of groups and advocates, everything from the business side to the consumer side, the civil rights side to the economic liberty side, as well as the recovery community and people concerned about child safety,” Osborne said at the hearing, as quoted by the Associated Press. “It’s about time we get something done.”
The Associated Press reports that “a coalition that includes both the ACLU of New Hampshire and the conservative group Americans for Prosperity is backing a bipartisan bill to legalize the drug, regulate and tax retail operations and allow it to be grown at home,” and that most of the revenue generated from marijuana sales “would go toward reducing the state’s pension liability, with some going to substance abuse prevention programs and other groups.”
I hadn’t seen David since I got sent down. He was waiting in the visitor’s room, looking like he was afraid he’d catch bad luck. We went through the preliminary how-you-beens, then I asked him if he’d brought me anything to smoke. He started. He reminded me of the many signs he’d driven by after passing the prison entrance that declared it a felony to bring alcohol, firearms or drugs onto the reservation. “And besides,” he said, “this is a prison. I mean, after all… uh, drugs? In the joint?”
I figured I’d have to show him how it was done. I indicated another prisoner a dozen yards away busily chatting with a pretty young woman. “Keep your eye on him,” I told him. “He’s about to go with something.” And sure enough, not ten minutes later, we watched him shove his arm down the back of his pants and rummage around. The second time this happened Dave asked me what was going on.
“See, he palms the balloons out of his ol’ lady’s bra, picks his shot when The Man isn’t lookin’, and keesters ’em, one at a time.”
Balloons? Keesters? “Yup” I grinned. “Up the ol’ rooty-poop chute, quick as a wink. No muss, no fuss, Burma Shave.”
Still tentative, Dave asked what the guy’s chances were. Did this happen often, or was it a one-shot deal?
“Just business as usual,” I assured him. “It’s probably weed, ‘cuz that’s the biggest seller. But that guy—I nodded at another inmate a bare ten feet away—he’ll be bringin’ in smack. Rougher crowd, y’know.”
Almost any high you can buy on the street is for sale in the yard too: pot and hash and ludes and smack and booze and glue and speed. Sometimes even a bit o’ the blow. LSD, too, if you’re of a mind. What’s more, The Man knows it. I was initially leery of writing about prison traffic, fearful I would be treated as an informer—by both inmates and authorities. And this article is definitely not intended to teach prison officials how to more effectively impede the flow of drugs into their institutions. But very few schemes escape the notice of prison officials for very long anyway usually due to the widespread use of informants. What is so heartening to the schemers, and frustrating to the officials, is that, short of a complete overhaul of the security systems in most prisons, there is little or nothing that can be done to stop this.
Most prisons in the United States follow a basic order of priorities: House the offender securely (which is to say “lock his ass up tight so society can sleep at night”); offer training for the offender so that he can return to society as a “productive member,” though oftentimes training programs are merely a guise to secure ever-larger budgets; and—more important to the prison officials than anything else—never ever allow the offender to use drugs to escape the tedium and monotony of his imprisonment.
About half of the drugs that enter most prisons come in through the visiting room. It should logically follow, therefore, that where there is no physical contact between the prisoner and his visitor, the likelihood of drugs being introduced into that prison is severely reduced.
The procedure at the Texas Department of Corrections, for example, prevents physical contact—but not smuggling. There inmates sit on one side of a room-length table and their visitors sit on the other. Guards sit on elevated platforms at each end of this table. Partitions above and below the table ensure that nothing is surreptitiously passed from visitor to con. The only time this restriction may be breeched is when the visitor buys a soft drink or some fruit juice for the prisoner. The visitor who is sharp eyed and nimble fingered may be able to slip something into the opened can without being seen before handing it to the guard to pass to the prisoner. If so, the “lucky” convict in Texas may go back to his cell having drunk a couple of ‘ludes or maybe some acid. Plainly though, the circumstances hardly conduce to a good high.
Thankfully most prisons are not afflicted with so great a degree of paranoia as the TDC. In New Hampshire, for instance, the visiting policy permits “limited contact”: Inmates and their visitors are separated by an ordinary table, fingertips touching; an embrace is allowed at the beginning and at the end of the visiting period. At the end of the visit the prisoner is not skin-searched—but merely frisked—and his shoes are inspected. Prisons in Washington State conduct visiting in much the same manner, except there is no separation by a table; the prisoner and visitor sit facing each other, holding hands if desired. Again, only a pat-search at the end of the visit.
All California prisons have contact visiting. The word contact is here given a very wide latitude. As one prisoner at the California Men’s Colony near San Luis Obispo (site of Timothy Leary‘s Weathermen-abetted escape) tells me: “Hell, man, babies have been conceived in the visiting room here.” That’s close contact.
Clearly the opportunities to smuggle drugs in situations such as these are almost infinite.
You cannot simply arrive at a prison with a baggie full of marijuana and hope that your convict friend will be able to take it from there. Recently I spoke with a man who had just been released from [name of institution deleted to prevent any harassment of the men there upon disclosure of this information]. His wife packaged pot for him to smuggle back into prison after she visited each week. First, she cleaned all the seeds and stems out of the grass. Then she stuffed an ordinary balloon with cleaned weed until it was about an inch in diameter, making sure to pack it tightly. After tying the balloon closed, she wrapped it in still another balloon and sealed that one, too. He explained that stomach acid is sometimes strong enough to eat through one or even two layers of balloon, so whenever she brought him any substances other than pot, she always gave it at least three wraps. (His caution is understandable. Careless packaging has been responsible for the death of many cocaine and heroin smugglers outside, and the same danger lies for the unsuspecting convict who swallows or keesters a poorly wrapped balloon from an otherwise well meaning friend.) He told me of one prisoner who OD’d right in the visiting room: “Man, he just nodded out and never came back! That’s why I always emphasized to the ol’ lady how important it was to be careful. She always did good, though, God love her. She knew those little balls of pleasure would keep the frown off my face—and they did!”
Adding to the supply feeding high-hungry cons are guards who pack—though it should be stressed here that probably less than 25 percent of the drug traffic in any given prison originates thusly. The reasons a guard would hazard his livelihood, and possible prosecution if discovered, in order to introduce drugs into the place where he works are many: the need for supplementary income, the excitement of risk, and sometimes just plain friendship or compassion. Relates a former California convict: “In ’71 I was at Soledad. Yeah, George Jackson, the Soledad Brothers, the whole thing was happenin’ then. Me, I was just lookin’ to get high. About this time I got in real good with this Chicano guard. After a few weeks o’ listenin’ to him talk about all the dope he was smokin’, I hit on him to bring me somethin’ to smoke, too. At first he was hesitant, but I kept drivin’ on him till he broke down and brought me some grass. What he’d been smokin’ was shit Mexican—he only paid fifteen dollars a bag for it—so after a couple o’ weeks I offered to have my brother send him a quarter-pound of some real kickass; he’d keep an ounce and bring me the other three. Once it arrived and he got a taste of that good, rich Colombo, it was all gravy after that. Until I left the ‘Dad in ’75, ol’ Paco kept me fat. What he didn’t know was that I was selling some o’ them ounces for tall bucks. A forty-dollar bag from my brother brought almost two hundred on the yard. Hell, a balloon the size of an English pea went for five dollars; figure it out for yourself.”
Prisoners who have no family or friends depend on what they can buy or trade for inside the prison. In some institutions the medium of exchange is cigarettes or coffee. Some inmates trade hobbycraft items, such as leatherwork, or paintings. Some men receive visits only from their parents and can get only money from them. As easily as drugs can be smuggled in, green can be smuggled in also. Green will usually net you a larger amount of drugs than an equal value in cigarettes or oil paintings.
Convicts often find the U.S. Postal Service to be the most reliable courier. Most people know that postage stamps are good for more than ensuring that a letter is mailed. Similarly LSD (and in some cases, heroin) can be dissolved and stationery soaked in it prior to mailing. Green can be stashed in greeting cards. The inventiveness of the correspondent is the only limitation.
Many maximum and medium-security prisons have camps nearby for men who are approaching release. These camps seldom have fences and the men there are, in many instances, free and unsupervised. At the federal prison near Lompoc, California, the laundry for camp inmates at one time was done inside the maximum facility. Since the drug situation at the camp has always been very relaxed, the men there had ample opportunity (until the scheme was discovered) to secrete drugs for those inside in their cleaned clothing.
In every institution there are men who receive what is termed “controlled” medication, usually various forms of downers: Thorazine, Dilantin, Mellaril, Prolixin and phenobarbitol. It takes very little practice to learn to palm these pills, which can then be saved up for a real bang or sold.
However, the most ingenious system for copping inside that I’ve ever heard is used by my friend Nick, who is a prisoner in one of the larger prison systems on the East Coast. A few months ago he called me in California and asked—in an informal code we use—if I could send $50 to an address he gave me. I agreed, and as the conversation unfolded, I learned that the money would be going to the family of another convict who received regular visits. As soon as the money arrived, this man would give Nick a prearranged quantity of pot. I put the money in the mail the next day and my friend was smoking later that week. I’ve since done this three or four times for him. What did Nick get for the $50? About a quarter ounce of marijuana. Not much, to be sure, but it is, after all, a prison. And from what he told me, this is about the going rate there.
Far and away the drug of preference in the yard is pot or hash, followed next by downers, then speed, then heroin. Cocaine is almost last, not for lack of desire, but because of the corresponding problems of price and availability. Coke simply is not worth the extravagant cost to most convicts, when the same amount of goods or green will net you a much larger amount of marijuana or hash. (One of those times I mailed money for Nick, he received three grams of hash for $50. And that was a bargain! Usually hash goes for $25 to $30 a gram, he told me.) LSD is also a low-preference drug. While a bit o’ the blow heightens the senses and makes enjoyable an otherwise apathetic day, acid often sharpens the perception of being imprisoned, mutating routine mediocrity into apprehension and paranoia.
Even booze and glue, the bastard children of the drug subset, find a market inside. At any time, in most prisons, someone will have a batch of homebrew going. It’s never very strong, packing about the same alcoholic punch as wine—but in sufficient quantity even prison vintage produces one hell of a buzz. To concoct alcohol, very little is needed that cannot be obtained through regular channels inside a prison. Except yeast. Because of its scarcity many convict brewers make a starting mixture of raw-fruit and raw-vegetable pulp, which is mixed and allowed to ferment for two to three days. This kicker is then added to a premixed base of fruit pulp or juice, sugar and water. The base determines how the end product will taste; however, the choice of fruit is more often the result of availability than desire, since most batches of ”pruno” or ”raisin jack” or “orange wine” are prepared for effect more than taste. Once the kicker is added to the base mixture, the fermentation of sugar into alcohol begins. Within five to seven days, depending on the ingredients, a liquid is produced that is anywhere from 10 to 20 percent alcohol (again, depending on the base). A sizable portion is usually strained off for immediate consumption at this point, fresh fruit pulp and sugar water added, and the whole thing started over. However, neither that step nor a starting mixture is necessary if yeast is available.
The advantage to using yeast is that it cuts the time factor, often critical in a prison setting, by about one-third. In place of actual yeast, a fistful of raw dough may be dissolved in warm water and used immediately in place of a kicker. No matter how well hidden the container, though, smell is the worst enemy of convict pruno makers, who usually “cook up a batch” five gallons at a time. In some cases, a vent hose is forced behind the trap in a toilet and the fumes safely exhausted. Or a sponge soaked in a deodorant can be placed over the vent hole on the container itself, thereby masking the giveaway odor. Inventiveness and ingenuity however, are on the convict’s side. Rarely does The Man bust more wine than is drunk.
I have been told by men at several different institutions that many guards nowadays are reluctant to “beef” you—write a disciplinary report—for reefer. But the same pot-lenient guards will seldom give you a pass for alcohol. Because of its reputation for producing monsters from mild-mannered men, prison-brewed hooch is feared more by staff than any other drug. Witness the brutal bloodiest at New Mexico’s Santa Fe prison in February 1980. Documented evidence now points to a batch of raisin jack as the trigger—although not the cause—of this riot.
Way down on the list of preferences— somewhere between “Fuck that shit!” and “You must be crazy, sucker!—is glue, or any of the petroleum distillates containing toluene or carbon tetrachloride. An interesting aside, which comes from the Federal Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington (now closed), is that, of the Indian prisoners there, glue was the drug of preference. Considering its status with the general population, the reader may draw his own conclusions.
Prisons create their own drug market. Drugs bring a sense of relief—relief from boredom, escape from the “dead zone” (as Stephen King calls it) of enforced numbness that encases a man in prison like an insect embedded in amber. Of course, set and setting figure into this to an extraordinary degree in prison.
Virtually all prisons are constructed so that the housing units consist of either multitiered rows of cells, or a dormitory. In most instances, the line officer patrols periodically checking for prohibited behavior and making his presence known to maintain order In the conflict between the desire to get high in a relaxed and comfortable setting—one’s own “house”—and the necessity for precaution in order to prevent a trip to The Hole, the very expenditure of energy to reconcile one with the other detracts from the fullness of the high. Conversely, in a situation where set and setting are complementary an otherwise meager high can blossom into something memorable. Most prisons have a yard where, even under the watchful eyes of the guards in the towers, the careful convict can easily blow a joint with little or no danger of being caught.
Another place of relative security is the auditorium or gymnasium when a movie is being shown. Rarely do guards venture into this area after the lights are dimmed and in many prisons there is a tacit understanding between staff and inmates that smoking will be condoned as long as there is no violence. In the words of one prisoner: “When you know The Man isn’t interested in busting anyone during the flick, it makes getting high there just that much sweeter.”
A good deal of the violence in most prisons is drug related, and although much of this can be attributed to the traffic in heroin, no category of drug is blameless. Because of the ridiculously inflated prices of drugs, and the corresponding scarcity of money or resources available to the average convict, conflicts inevitably arise. In the early ’60s, at the California Medical Facility near Vacaville (which presently houses Juan Corona and Charles Manson), one of the heroin dealers inside the joint was found out to be a rat, supplying information to The Man in exchange for immunity. One day shortly after a visit, he was attacked and killed in his cell. Wasting no opportunity in their bloody business, his attackers slit open his stomach and scooped out the balloons he had earlier swallowed. In 1975, a prisoner at Joliet State Prison in Illinois had his eyes gouged out by a man to whom he owed money for drugs. After he fingered his assailant and was locked up in “protective custody” he was gang-raped for becoming a snitch. Seldom, however, are methods this unusual employed. Most often the offending party is dealt with swiftly and lethally. Convicts have a name for it: steel poisoning. As recently as 1980, in the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, an inmate was stabbed to death because he failed to pay for less than a half ounce of marijuana. The medical report stated that his head was “almost severed from [his] torso” because of the “number and intensity of [his] wounds.” Obviously prison is no place for the deadbeat.
The other side of this coin is that if there were no drugs available at all, the strain of living day to day with so many others in such a butthole-to-bellybutton environment would quickly breed just as much and perhaps even more violence than the drug-related kind. About the only solution that would not create more problems is for the prisons to dispense drugs on demand. Since this is hardly in the works for the near future in any U.S. prison, most inmates will have to be content with whatever schemes they are using presently.
Sometimes I can’t help but marvel at the convoluted maze set up to assure a delivery of drugs. The following story comes to me from a man who is presently incarcerated in one of the federal government’s maximum security prisons: It seems in late ’79 a guard at one of the federal correctional centers (jails) near a major metropolitan area was flashing his paycheck around, taunting the inmates with how much he was sucking up from the government teat. In revenge, one of these men was able to successfully snatch this check right out of the asshole’s shirt pocket without being seen. As soon as the loss was discovered, the entire facility was locked down and every inmate and his cubicle was searched. Nothing was turned up. A few weeks later this check was successfully spirited to the previously mentioned prison. From there it was smuggled out and mailed across the country to a major department store to be cashed. (Uncle Sam’s checks are as good as gold anywhere in the country for up to 90 days.) After being cashed, 60 percent of the original amount was sent back to the convict’s confederates, who used this money to purchase a kilo of marijuana that was then smuggled into the prison. Uncle treated all around. Justice could never have been more poetic.
New Hampshire Public Radio reports that the “top Republican and Democrat in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives are teaming up to introduce a bill to legalize the possession and retail sale of marijuana in New Hampshire.”
The GOP controls the lower chamber, and the top Republican, House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, will collaborate with House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm to ensure that the so-called “Live Free or Die State” actually lives up to its motto.
Osborne and Wilhelm are hoping that their colleagues in the state Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, will get on board this time around.
The state House of Representatives approved a bill that would have legalized pot in April, but the measure was subsequently shot down in the state Senate.
“The House has long stood united in finding a pathway to getting this done for Granite Staters,” Osborne said, as quoted by New Hampshire Public Radio. “With any luck, the Senate will come around to supporting the will of the vast majority of New Hampshire citizens.”
Wilhelm echoed that, saying that legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”
As the Concord Monitor noted, New Hampshire stands as an outlier in the region with its status as “the lone state in New England that has yet to legalize marijuana.”
New Hampshire Legal Limit
According to the outlet, the bill, which has not yet been formally introduced, “would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to four ounces of cannabis, protect for cultivation both at home and through state-licensed private sites, enable retail sales and establish a state regulatory and licensing body.”
“This proposal to legalize cannabis for adults in New Hampshire brings together diverse nonpartisan perspectives. This bill brings a solution to pay off our pension liability, reduce property taxes, provide additional resources for law enforcement, while restricting minors from accessing cannabis,” Osborne said in a statement, as quoted by the Concord Monitor.
Osborne and Wilhelm will have other potential impediments beyond the state Senate if they are to get legalization passed.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who was elected to a fourth term in last month’s election, has long expressed his opposition to cannabis legalization, which he has said could exacerbate the existing crisis surrounding fentanyl abuse.
“I’ve always said now’s not the time. Every state does it very different. I’ve always wanted to see what works and what doesn’t,” Sununu said in a gubernatorial debate this fall, as quoted by the Concord Monitor. “There may be a way to do it but given that we are facing an opioid crisis, given that we still don’t know what works with other states, it could be inevitable, I get it, but you got to be patient about how you do it and the steps that are best for New Hampshire.”
Advocates such as Osborne and Wilhelm contend that the state is being left behind in an era of legalization, and that prohibition continues to disproportionately affect people of color.
New Hampshire Public Radio, citing data from the American Civil Liberties Union, reported that “1,120 people were charged with marijuana possession in New Hampshire in 2021 alone,” with the data indicating that “Black people are far more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white people, even though both groups use cannabis at comparable rates.”
The New Hampshire Senate voted against a bill to legalize recreational pot on Thursday, likely killing the prospects for the adoption of substantive cannabis policy reform this year. The measure, House Bill 629, was rejected by the state Senate with a bipartisan vote of 15-9.
Under the measure, possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of pot would have been legalized for adults 21 and older. The bill also would have allowed for the possession of some cannabis tinctures and edibles, and home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants by adults would also have been permitted. The legislation did not, however, include provisions for the commercial production and sale of cannabis.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved House Bill 629 earlier this year with a bipartisan vote of 241-113. But the bill was rejected on Thursday by the state Senate over concerns about public safety.
“This is not a harmless substance,” Republican Senator Bob Giuda told colleagues during a debate before Thursday’s vote. “Legalizing this does no good for any segment of our population.”
Broad Support for Recreational Cannabis Legalization
Senators in favor of the bill noted that cannabis policy reform enjoys broad support in New Hampshire. Recent polling from the University of New Hampshire shows that 74% of the state’s residents approve ending the prohibition on cannabis for adults, with more than two-thirds expressing support for legislation that would have authorized sales of legal cannabis by state-run retailers. Democratic Senator Becky Whitley said that the state is falling behind its neighbors on cannabis legalization.
“New Hampshire has become an island in New England, with our overly burdensome regulations of cannabis that are out of sync with what the scientific health and social data says,” Whitley said. “And most importantly, with what New Hampshire voters want.”
Whitley also referred to data released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire that showed that Black residents of New Hampshire are 4.8 times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people. She also noted that the disparity is more pronounced in some areas, saying “13.9 times: That’s the number of times that Black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession when compared to white people in Manchester, despite both groups using marijuana at roughly the same rate.”
Republican Senator Bill Gannon disputed the data offered by Whitley, saying he had read “studies from numerous police departments” that he said showed that people of color are arrested at lower rates than white people. Gannon’s office did not reply to an email from High Times requesting more information on the research cited by the senator.
Gannon also said that lawmakers should not be swayed by the international cannabis reform movement.
“In New Hampshire, we make men and women of granite,” he said, adding “I don’t care what my three neighboring states and Canada do. The majority of the U.S. is still against legalization.”
Earlier on Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate killed a separate bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis possession and sales. Under House Bill 1598, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission would have been given the responsibility “to regulate and administer the cultivation, manufacture, testing, and retail sale of cannabis statewide,” with recreational cannabis sales carried out through the agency’s state-run liquor stores.
The bill was passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives earlier this month by a vote of 169-156. But with a unanimous vote on April 20, the Senate Ways and Means Committee recommended that the bill be deemed “inexpedient to legislate.”
Senators followed that recommendation on Thursday by a unanimous voice vote. With both bills killed by the Senate, recreational cannabis legalization efforts in New Hampshire are likely dead until next year.